The forecast is for light snow when the USA hosts Costa Rica on Friday night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
You'd think such conditions would work against the visitors from Costa Rica, where temperatures are in the mid-80s these days, but many of the Ticos are used to playing in cold weather. Five play in Scandinavia, three play in MLS and two play in England.
The MLS contingent includes Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio, the subject of much speculation on Wednesday as he was reported to have injured his knee in training.
Saborio is the star of the Ticos, who are on a roll so far this year, having won the Copa Centroamericana in January and opened the Hexagonal with a 2-2 tie with Panama in Panama City in a match they trailed by two goals after only 26 minutes.
The Ticos' strength is in their attack with Saborio, who is still expected to play on Friday, Bryan Ruiz, who plays for Fulham in England, and 20-year-oldJoel Campbell, who has been playing so well at Real Betis that the Spanish club wants to extend its loan deal with Arsenal for Campbell for another season.
Campbell, who came on at halftime against Panama, could start against the USA. Other changes from the starting lineup against Panama could be Michael Barrantes in midfield for Celso Borges, Christian Gamboa at right back for Jose Salvatierra, who is not in Colorado, and perhapsBryan Oviedo, who plays for Everton, at left back for Christopher Meneses.
Coach Jorge Luis Pinto will also have to decide whether to again go with Patrick Pemberton in goal or replace him with Keilor Navas, who plays in Spain for Levante. Navas had started all six games in goal during the semifinal round of qualifying. The Ticos' two losses were to Mexico (2-0 and 1-0) when the defense was exposed on set pieces.
LAST TIME OUT.After quickly going 2-0 down at Panama, the Ticos pulled one back thanks to Saborio six minutes before halftime, and the Real Salt Lake star set up Ruiz for the tying goal on a scissor kick in the 84th minute to give Costa Rica a share of the points.
Costa Rica vs. Panama:
Pemberton; Salvatierra (Gamboa, 68), Umana, Gonzalez, Meneses; Bolanos, Borges (Barrantes, 57), Rodriguez; Ruiz, Brenes (Campbell, 46), Saborio.
WHO'S IN AND OUT.Five players were dropped from the team that traveled to Panama, including two starters, forward Randall Brenes and Salvatierra. Also out areRodney Wallace of the Portland Timbers and Johnny Acosta, a last-minute scratch because he couldn't get his visa processed in time. Veteran Douglas Sequeira, who will retire at the end of the season, was brought out of international retirement for the Panama game but he ended up not playing. The six new players Pinto brought in are all domestic players: Juan Diego Madrigal (Santos), Kendall Watson (Perez Zeledon), Keylor Soto (Perez Zeledon), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa),Mauricio Castillo (Cartagines) and Diego Calvo (Alajuelense).
WHY THE USA SHOULD BE CONFIDENT.The USA has won every Hexagonal home opener by shutout and at least two goals since Concacaf's inaugural six-team tournament in 1997:
Hexagonal home openers:
1997 USA-Canada 3-0 in Palo Alto, Calif.
2001 USA-Mexico 2-0 in Columbus, Ohio
2005 USA-Guatemala 2-0 in Birmingham, Ala.
2009 USA-Mexico 2-0 in Columbus, Ohio
WHY THE USA SHOULD BE WORRIED.The USA has failed to beat Costa Rica in almost eight years. Since its 3-0 victory in Salt Lake City in June 2005, it is winless in five meetings with the Ticos. The USA didn't beat them during the Bob Bradley era (two games), and Jurgen Klinsmann's first loss as U.S. coach came when it fell to the Ticos in September 2011. During that span, the USA has beaten Honduras and Panama six times each, Mexico five times and Jamaica three times.
2005 USA-Costa Rica 0-0 (Gold Cup)
2005 Costa Rica-USA 3-0 (World Cup qualifying)
2009 Costa Rica-USA 3-1 (World Cup qualifying)
2009 USA-Costa Rica 2-2 (World Cup qualifying)
2011 USA-Costa Rica 0-1 (friendly)
ON THE SIDELINES.The 60-year-old Pinto returned to coach Costa Rica in October 2011 after Ricardo La Volpe's resignation two months earlier. La Volpe, the former Mexico coach, had been brought in to turn the national team around after it failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, but poor showings at the 2011 Gold Cup and Copa America accelerated the Argentine's exit. Pinto previously coached Costa Rica in 2004-05 as well as his native Colombia in 2007-08. The long list of clubs at which he has worked -- 10 in all -- includes Costa Rica's Alajuelense, which won three league titles during his short tenure in 2002-03.
Costa Rica Roster:
Goalkeepers:Keylor Navas (Levante, Spain), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense).
Defenders:Juan Diego Madrigal (Santos), Christian Gamboa (Rosenborg, Norway), Michael Umana (Saprissa), Kendall Watson (Perez Zeledon), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Valerenga, Norway), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls) Bryan Oviedo (Everton, England), Christopher Meneses (Alajuelense).
Midfielders:Celso Borges (AIK, Sweden), Osvaldo Rodriguez (Santos), Cristian Bolanos (FC Copenhagen, Denmark), Ariel Rodriguez (Perez Zeledon), Keylor Soto (Perez Zeledon), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa), Michael Barrantes (Aalesund, Norway), Bryan Ruiz (Fulham, England), Mauricio Castillo (Cartagines), Diego Calvo (Alajuelense).
Forwards:Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake), Joel Campbell (Betis, Spain), Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew).